Monday, March 21, 2005

Microsites: Good Way to Increase Freelance Income, or Not?

Ads like the following are becoming more and more popular:

Contributing Editors: Have Fun Writing About Your Hobby or Passion & Make Money Too! If you have always wanted to start your own website but didn't know where to begin, Garden and Hearth is now offering micro-sites to enthusiastic individuals who are willing to give it their all. Full details at

Content is king on the Internet because most people who use the net are searching for information. And, niche sites often provide the most informative, detailed content. As more and more website owners realize this, the push to provide detailed, up-to-date information on various topics can be more lucrative than ever. Proof?

The highly popular site, is built on this model. And, more and more Internet businesses are taking advantage of its popularity.

So, the question is: Are these types of opportunities good for aspiring writers/Internet entrepreneurs, or a waste of time? The advantages to editorial workers are numerous, namely:

a) more outlets to pitch skills: after all, the more sites that exist, the more opportunity for work (editing, writing, copyediting, graphic design, etc.);

b) additional outlets in which to showcase expertise: what better way to showcase your knowledge than a site full of your content on a particular subject; and

c) generate income from a passion: get paid for what you would do for free -- well, alright!

As an editorial worker, the following guidelines will help you to maximize your return if you decide to take advantage of this type of opportunity:

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1) Site Traffic: Make sure the site you "partner" with gets a lot of traffic. Just because you build it (ie, add content) does not mean they will come. No matter how good or interesting your portion of the site is, if the site as a whole does not already get a healthy flow of traffic, you will see minimal return on your investment.

After all, the whole idea behind a microsite is for you to go in with a little bit of a leg up already; otherwise, you might as well build your own website from scratch and drive traffic to it.

2) Content Rights: Before you contribute one bit of content, be very sure of who owns the rights to it. If you spend time building a highly successful microsite, you want to make sure that you own the rights to the content. Why?

What if the site is sold or the owner of the site decides to hire someone else to take over your channel (your microsite), or YOU decide that you would rather go it alone? Will you be able to take your content with you (if not, you'll have to start over)? Will you have the right to, at minimum, republish it? Or, does the site owner retain all rights to the material.

Durant and Chery Imboden, the writers/entrepreneurs behind the highly successful, among other travel-related sites, are perfect examples of how retaining copyright to all material is critical to your success if you decide -- for whatever reason -- to move on. He states:

"Our relationship with ended in fall, 2001, when we acquired our own domains and placed our copyrighted material on four tightly integrated sites: Europe for Visitors, Venice for Visitors, Switzerland for Visitors, and Austria for Visitors." See the following link for complete article and links to other sites surrounding this issue:

This link clearly outlines what the suit is all about:,1367,53140,00.html

3) Employment Status: As the links above clearly illustrate, defining your status (independent contractor or employee) is critical.

4) Severance Terms: Be sure this is clearly outlined in case you -- or the site owner -- decides to terminate your arrangement. What happens to the content already delivered? How long can it be used? Will you be paid for it? How much? How often?
5) Non-complete Clause: If you can take your content with you but you signed an agreement with a non-complete clause, owning your content could be useless in the short run -- if ever. Read the fine print.

These are but a few issues to be aware of when considering entering into a microsite partnership. As with any business arrangement, consult a qualified attorney before signing any agreement. The bottom line is that this can be a profitable arrangement for all involved if certain guidelines are followed.
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